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Mainstream, Vol XLVI No 27

In Defence of National Interest


Wednesday 25 June 2008, by SC


The UPA Government is facing the most severe crisis since its formation four years ago. It is by now quite transparent that following the postponement of the UPA-Left coordination committee meeting, which was slated to be held on June 18, the two sides are preparing for a parting of ways on the issue of the government proceeding to seek approval of the text of the India-specific safeguards agreement from the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has made it emphatically clear in private conversations that he cannot continue in office if he cannot go forward with the nuclear deal. He is most keen to see that the process of seeking approval of the safeguards agreement from the IAEA Board of Governors is set in motion. On the other hand the Left parties are totally opposed to this step and have clarified their position time and again.

The Left parties, as elucidated by CPM leader Sitaram Yechury, are not opposed to discussions with the IAEA per se on the safeguards agreement, but in the present circumstances—regardless of what the negotiators from the government side may claim—the safeguards cannot be delinked from the Indo-US nuclear deal which is spelt out by the 123 Agreement; and this Agreement, as Yechury has cogently explained, is deeply anchored in the Hyde Act of the US. Any dispassionate analyst understands that the Hyde Act can never be in consonance with India’s national interest.

In this context it is worthwhile recalling the Left parties’ statement, “On the Indo-US Bilateral Nuclear Cooperation Agreement”, issued last August. In that statement the Left parties had declared in unequivocal terms:

The Left parties had earlier cautioned the government not to accept nuclear cooperation with United States on terms that compromise its independent foreign policy and its sovereign right for developing a self-reliant nuclear programme. It had asked the UPA Government to desist from proceeding with the negotiations for the 123 Agreement till the inimical provisions of the Hyde Act are cleared out of the way.

The Left parties, after a careful assessment of the text of the 123 Agreement and studying it in the context of the burgeoning strategic alliance with the United States, are unable to accept the agreement. The Left calls upon the government not to proceed further with the operationalising of the agreement.

That position remains unchanged to this day. Hence the question of proceeding further with the deal does not arise.

One is well aware of the massive campaign that has been launched by the government and all interested sections to implement the deal. In the process considerable disinformation has been circulated about the Left’s opposition to the agreement. With all the criticism one has about the functioning of the Left parties in general and the CPM in particular, one must unhesitatingly affirm that on this specific issue the Left has played and is playing a highly noteworthy and positive role in defence of national interest.

Even if one goes by the logic of realpolitic, the deal (on which the PM has staked so much) will not only not bring any substantive benefit in terms of energy security, it will invite the antipathy, even hostility, of large segments of our society especially in the context of the machinations of the US under the Bush Administration across the globe. Needless to say, the government will have to pay a heavy price, both electorally and otherwise, if it decides to proceed, as it has already decided, with the deal.

But that apart, as has been repeatedly argued in these columns, purely from the standpoint of national interest the deal needs to be given a decent burial at the earliest.

May 19 S.C.

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